Ready to Rally: Nobody is Above the Law, November 8, 2018
Since January 2017, Countlove.org has been tracking protests against the Trump administration. According to their estimates, there have been more than 11,650 protests mobilizing over 9.5 million people. That’s a lot of protest, and a lot of that protesting happens right here in Portland.
The recent Nobody Is Above The Law rally is not the first protest, rally, or event NWGSD has helped organized, but we thought you’d enjoy a quick, behind-the-scenes look at how these events get put together, and in this case, how it got put together so quickly.
After the election, most of us thought we’d have a few days to catch up on our sleep, reflect and hang out with our friends and families, but alas, it was not to be. Jeff Sessions’ “requested” resignation the Wednesday after the election and the installation of Trump crony Matt “I don’t really know the guy” Whitaker triggered a longstanding rapid response plan by MoveOn to protect the Mueller investigation. The protests were scheduled for the next day, November 8, at 5 p.m. local time, which began a quest to put a protest together.
PARTNERS: For a successful event, you need partners. NWGSD has developed a fantastic working relationship with Indivisible Oregon, so a core team of Indivisibles, Nasty Women, and a couple unaffiliated grassroots activists got to work to make the rally happen.
LOCATION: Location. Location. Location. A good location is crucial for a successful rally, and for those of you who were following along on social media, you noticed that the venue kept switching between Pioneer Courthouse Square and the North Waterfront before we settled on the North Waterfront. Why all the back and forth? Well, it has to do with how many people are expected, whether or not police are required, safety issues, how accessible it is, and what the facilities and layout are. As those issues were addressed, the North Waterfront became the best spot.
COMMUNICATION: When the majority of the organizing takes place the day of the event, your phone is constantly buzzing and ringing while the details are worked out. Who has the safety vests? Who can find a sound system and who can pick it up? Who can go get things printed? Who will organize the volunteers? Who will be the media contact and post live updates?
“Things were happening so fast that I couldn’t keep track of everything, and people were just stepping up and getting things done,” said Kate Sharaf of Indivisible Oregon, who was also the event’s emcee. “It’s amazing and inspiring to work with such a kickass group of people!”
SPEAKERS: Putting together a program is a key component of a rally, and we wanted to find speakers that would not only address the reason for the protest, but would also talk about the election results and the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Over the past couple years, we’ve developed ties with local organizers and leaders, and we were able to arrange five speakers: Rabbi Debra R. Kolodny offered song, words of reflection, and a healing prayer for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Sen. Ron Wyden emphatically reminded us that the Constitution can’t be trampled. Jagjit Nagra, a field representative for Sen. Jeff Merkley, read a statement of support from the senator that called on Whitaker to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, and Ali King of NWGSD shared a statement from Rep. Earl Blumenauer on the importance of keeping up the fight in Congress and on the ground for the rule of law. Nick Knudsen, the founder and publisher of DemWrite Press, spoke of the importance of doing the work so that future generations will benefit. Finally, we wanted people to leave with an action plan, so we shared Indivisible Oregon’s Call To Action to provide additional channels of resistance.
“My adrenaline was pumping all day long as our team got to work organizing the event,” said Ali King, president of NWGSD. “By the end of the day, we had several incredible speakers lined up, a sound system rented, media notified, actions and chants printed out, and the rally was a huge success! What a thrill to be involved in a project like this and to inspire and empower thousands of people to take concrete actions to protect our democracy.”
When your viewpoint at a rally is one where you can look from the stage across the venue, you see not only the scope of the event with the almost 3,000 people who came together, but also smaller details: how the chants move through the crowd, a clever, colorful sign that catches your eye, a young man who brought a large American flag to rally the crowd, a family with young children, protesters in Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Paul Revere costumes, the people who stood along Naito Parkway the entire time with signs to engage the traffic, and the small group that set up a projector on the grass to project “Impeach” and “Nobody Is Above The Law” on nearby buildings. All this creative intelligence is a visual reminder of why we do this—to say that We The People are here, and we are paying attention.